AI, Copyright, and you, the Celebrant

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © June 2023
Originally published in Celebrations, Issue 132, July 2023, pp 7-8. Republished with some minor edits 30/03/2024
Categories: | Published Article |  Wedding Legals  |
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I’ve just received this lovely message from a  WA member and thought you should see her comments.   I’m happy to add my “well done” to these comments as well – it really was one of the best articles we’ve had in a long time – and most opportune - Irene Harrington
Just a quick note of congrats for one of the most compelling issues of Celebrations I've read. Jennifer Cram's article was a standout. So thoughtfully researched and really, really timely given some networking discussions I've heard recently - Candice Bydder

A word to non-celebrant readers

The original article (below) was written for an audience of celebrants. It will,  however, be of interest to a wider audience, particularly if you are interested in making sure that your ceremony sidesteps legal issues relating to copyright.

                        human hand holding a white copyright symbol
The chattersphere has been busily lauding the benefits of using generative AI tools to save time and effort by producing ceremony scripts, blog posts, and marketing materials.

ChatGPT and other tools draw on what are referred to as LLMs (Large Language Models) which just means that the algorithm processes whatever it can get access to, effectively plagiarising largely copyright content owned by you, me, and the world and his wife. Ethical questions aside, is there a downside to that?

The downside to AI tools for Celebrants

If you look through the lens of the Code of Practice that all Australian Authorised Marriage Celebrants are required to comply with, yes there is. We are required to abide by all laws, and that means not breaching the intellectual property of others. To be realistic, celebrants breach copyright almost routinely through the simple act of including passages written by others in our ceremonies without accurate attribution. How many times have you recognised vows, presented to you as self-written by someone you are marrying, because you’ve seen them time and again? Or seen a reading attributed to Unknown or Anonymous when the author is neither?

But neither of those breaches will grossly affect your right to whack a © symbol on your ceremony or blog post and assert your moral right to be acknowledged as the author.

Nor will contracting with a human writer to produce all or part of your content for you, as long as your contract specifies that copyright is transferred to you. You paid for it, so that is legal.

Enter AI and it all changes

Where in the world you are at the time makes all the difference because of a sneaky detail in Australian copyright law.  Who created it. And how original is it.  What are referred to as subsistence criteria. Copyright in a work (in this case, say, a wedding ceremony script), subsists in the creator of the work who must have used independent intellectual effort to create it. Only a human being can therefore create a literary work that is covered by Australian Copyright Law.

Game, set, match to human intelligence.

But, you might argue that you used independent intellectual effort to create the prompt that the AI tool used to produce the text. Good argument, but irrelevant because any prompt is separate from the text produced by AI. Much the same way the exam question is separate from the student’s answer on which the student is graded.

So, if AI produced the text, and AI isn’t human, copyright laws don’t apply. Or do they? That’s where it gets even more complicated.

Breaching copyright

Under Australian (and International) copyright law, using literary works created by others without express permission of the author, breaches the author’s copyright, an economic right that protects the creators right to benefit economically from their own independent intellectual effort. Using literary works created by others without acknowledging them as the creator breaches their moral rights. Copyright can be transferred. Moral rights cannot.

A text produced by an AI tool may or may not be in breach of copyright. If what is produced is a synthesis of mass data, likely not. If, however, it serves up a text that includes a large proportion of copyright-protected material, yes it will be.

A text produced by an AI tool may or may not be in breach of copyright. If what is produced is a synthesis of mass data, likely not. If, however, it serves up a text that includes a large proportion of copyright-protected material, yes it will be.

Other AI Risks

Apart from not having any rights where the text you are using is AI generated, are there any other risks that we celebrants should be aware of? I suggest there are four big ones
  1. AI tools can be used by anyone. So we have no edge or advantage over a rank amateur when it comes to AI generated ceremony creation, which could lead to an even more widespread belief that anyone can create and lead a ceremony.
  2. LLMs do not fact check. If a false fact is repeated often enough on machine accessible sources (i.e. the internet) it will be served up as fact.
  3. Apart from removing ourselves from any online presence, which is neither practical nor desirable, there is no way of protecting our intellectual property
  4. There is no practical way to know, without extensive checking of every piece of AI generated material we might use, whether or not it breaches copyright.
Plus there is a fifth risk, so huge that it deserves a category all of its own. Google regards AI-written content to be “automatically generated content” which will cause it to flag your site.

How it does that is through the use of AI content detectors, tools that identify both AI written content and content written in collaboration with human authors. Use of such tools is not restricted to the big end of town. Within weeks of AI generation tools bursting onto the scene late last year, an AI Text Classifier became available, free for all to use. Copy, paste, hit enter, and in a nano-second be told where on a Likert scale of Likely to Very Unlikely to have been generated using AI, a piece of text falls. I envisage that it will become common for clients to check for AI content anything a celebrant claims to be an original work purpose-written for them.

What's the solution?

Do I have a solution? Sadly, no. AI is unregulated, fast developing, and here to stay. There have been no controlled “clinical” trials. So how it will all pan out is, at the moment, anyone’s guess. In the meantime, all we can do is to make sure, as far as we can, that we are not in breach of the Code of Practice, or Copyright Law as it stands.


AI was not used in any way in the writing of this article. But would the classifier recognise that this article was written by a human? I ran it through the classifier and the result was The classifier considers the text to be very unlikely AI-generated.

Thanks for reading!

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                      Jennifer Cram
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